The Bon Vivant

bon vivant edinburgh cocktail barBon Vivant: n. pl. bons vi·vants (bô v-vä) A person with refined taste, especially one who enjoys superb food and drink. Well this Edinburgh staple on Thistle Street hits all those marks – channelling a French bistro-feel as it recreates an “on the continent” attitude towards dining and drink. Don’t let the romantic candle lighting and vintage posters fool you though, the vibe here is decidedly youthful – with DJs hitting the decks on weekends.

Bar staff are confident and inventive, so lay your trust in their hands for any classic (or twist thereon). The cocktail menu is ever-changing, keeping you on your toes, but if you’re looking for something of the grape variety – they’ve got 44 wines by the glass and might treat you to a blind tasting. We can’t help ourselves when there’s a Negroni Solera around … let them explain the system to you and then be sure to try one.

And the food, oh the food – with a wide selection of bites from £1, starters and middles, The Bon Vivant makes it easy to soak up those tasty tipples. If you’re just keen for a nibble, then try the chorizo in cider or, if it’s on offer, a few slices of jamón iberico (they have a whole leg behind the bar from time to time). Now let’s join them and do as the Europeans do.

Best Bars tip: Clearly the guys here have got a winning formula, having opened another branch of their namesake venue in Stockbridge as well as a sister bar called The Devil’s Advocate on Advocates Close (and don’t forget their cafe on Waterloo Place – Pep & Fodder). So there’s plenty of opportunity to get into the good life around town.

— Sasha Filimonov, @SashaSips

bon vivant edinburgh cocktail bar

Happiness Forgets

Happiness Forgets London Hoxton barThis narrow basement bar situated in the always buzzy Hoxton Square brings back memories of New York City (if you’ve ever been). Yet despite its prime location, Happiness Forgets employs a seated-only policy … meaning no shoving of elbows at the bar.

The service is unfailingly friendly and the cocktail menu is constantly changing, but they never veer too far from sentiments of the classics. A past-favourite of ours was The Journalist: a straight-up, gin-based cocktail that made us feel ready to tackle international political corruption.

Their motto is bang on: “High end cocktails. Low rent basement.” So if you’re looking for sublime sippers in a candlelit setting, perfect for catching up with old friends or getting some one-on-one time with a date – then this is for you. It’s a bartenders’ favourite as well, so don’t be surprised if you see a few sharp and dapper gents about the place.

Best Bars tip: This could well become a staple hangout after just one visit; but plenty of others will agree with you, so book ahead.

— Sasha Filimonov, @SashaSips

happiness forgets hoxton london bar

Experimental Cocktail Club

experimental cocktail club londonIf you’re lucky enough to find the unmarked door to the multi-storey Experimental Cocktail Club, you’re off to a good start. The doorman might tip you off to its location, but don’t feel intimidated – the key here is to play by the rules. Show up early if you don’t have a reservation and look reasonably put together (you needn’t dress like a disco ball, but a step up from pyjamas is a reasonable ask).

That said, the cocktails here are superb, robust and worth the wait on busier nights. While the drinks aren’t quite molecular, they’re perfectly executed. Try La Medicacion, a short tequila cocktail with a mezcal mist which is perfect year-round: refreshing and zesty for the summer yet smoky enough for the winter. If you have a chance, chat with the immaculately dressed bartenders and let them tailor a drink to your personal tastes. Or if you feel like splashing the cash, then test drive their vintage cocktails – the 1950s variation on the Manhattan will set you back a cool £200.

The dimly lit setting oozes Parisian laid-back chic, with ornate ceilings, soft furnishings and exposed brick walls. So just keep that Parisian cool in mind when the service gets a bit spotty.

Best Bars tip: Keep an eye out for any table that crops up, because if you play nice then the hostess might just let you keep it – until the booking arrives.

— Sasha Filimonov, @SashaSips

Experimental Cocktail Club punch bowl